The last 68 — as in the last 68 hours of Hayward's life — had been unforgettable for the low-key cornerback from Vanderbilt.
"It's been pretty exciting for me and my family," Hayward, the second of the Green Bay Packers' second-round picks, told Packer Report on Monday afternoon. "I think my family's been more excited than me."
Hayward's parents, Tish and Casey Sr., hosted a cookout in their son's honor at their home in Perry, Ga. It started on Thursday night and, when he wasn't drafted in the first round, continued on Friday night.
"It was almost like a block party," Hayward said.
In all, about 75 people attended. They were much more nervous than Hayward as the picks rolled by on Thursday and into Friday.
Finally, the phone rang. The wait was over, courtesy of general manager Ted Thompson's 28-spot move back into the second round.
"Oh, man, that moment was unbelievable because you never knew when the time was going to come," Hayward said. "When I got on the phone, I ran inside of our living room where all of my friends and family were, and I was like, ‘Shhhh! Be quiet! Be quiet!' And (the person on the phone) said, ‘This is Green Bay.' They were trying to trade up to get me and wasn't sure if it was going to go through, and then it went through. There was a lot of excitement."
Hayward is looking forward to getting to Green Bay for the start of the rookie orientation camp that runs May 11-13. More than that, he can't wait to start learning from Charles Woodson.
"He's one of the best players of all-time, especially at the DB position," Hayward said. "I grew up watching him when he was at Oakland. I admire his game. When you're a corner, you have to admire his game because he does so much. He plays in the slot, he can play corner, press, off, safety — a lot of things he does well."
In some ways, it sounds like Hayward is reading off his own scouting report. Hayward played a lot of zone in college, yet one source called him one of the best press-man prospects to enter the NFL since Woodson. For his career, Hayward tied the school record with 15 interceptions. His 46 passes defensed not only shattered the school record, but they tied for the lead among current players in the Football Bowl Subdivision and rank 11th in FBS history.
"I feel like, yes, I can do all of those things," Hayward said, though he's not expecting to unseat Woodson. "With Charles, you never know. Charles can play for a long time because he's been productive every year. Just to be around somebody like that, to see how they carry themselves and see how they play the game, I feel like that's going to help me out in the long run."
As a senior, Hayward allowed quarterbacks to complete 19.5 percent of their passes — yes, that's correct — while tying for the SEC lead with seven interceptions and 17 passes defensed. He had 7.5 tackles for losses, a figure that led the nation's defensive backs, and one less than in 2009, when he became the first cornerback to ever lead the team in TFLs.
"He's a willing tackler. He's a willing tackler," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "He will put his nose in there. He has a complete game. He has a complete game. There's not many holes that I found when I was evaluating him."
About Hayward's only disappointment with Green Bay is the choice in dining establishments. He said he eats at Chick-fil-A about three times a week, and after taking several business classes at Vanderbilt, he said he'd like to open a few of the restaurants someday.
Unfortunately, there are no Chick-fil-A's in Green Bay.
"I know. I absolutely know," Hayward said with a laugh. "There's not that many Chick-fil-A's up north, if any. Maybe I can start a trend."
On the other hand, he's excited about the kids-players bike-riding tradition at training camp.
"That sounds interesting," Hayward said. "I would love to do that. I love giving back to kids. I used to love riding bicycles when I was small but I haven't rode one in a long time."
Kids, he'll be wearing No. 29.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.